By Andy Frisk
January 12, 2012 - 23:25
Grant Morrison is a gifted writer. I’m just not a fan of his take on mainstream superheroes. I detested his take on Batman. I have not been overly excited or even really that interested in his stint on Action Comics, that is until now. In Action Comics (2011) #5, Morrison is tasked with retelling the origin story of Kal-El’s trip to Earth, the last minutes of the destruction of Krypton, and the Kents’ discovering of the baby Kal-El in the field in Kansas. Basically, he’s retelling a story that nearly everyone who’s ever even heard of Superman knows the basics of. It could have turned out to be incredibly boring and rehashed. Instead, Morrison turns this well known story into something new and wonderful. Of course, being a diehard Superman fan helps make the story wonderful to me, but what really makes me excited (at least about this part of Superman’s new story) is that it is unique and interesting despite being comfortingly familiar.
To begin with, this story isn’t told in the tradition of using an omniscient narrator, as so often has been the case with Superman origin stories in the past. No, this version of events is narrated by the sentient ship that brings Kal-El to Earth. A ship which Morrison instructs the talented Andy Kubert to make resemble a basket, a la Moses on the river, etc. etc. Why not? Superman is the ultimate metaphor for the ultimate immigrant experience. It, might as well be obvious, except that it isn’t exactly obvious to the average reader who hasn’t considered the allegory and metaphor behind Superman’s story. It’s an allegory that Siegel and Shuster had to have been aware of when they came up with Superman’s origin. When Morrison sticks to this type of inspired writing and leaves the super-mushroom enhanced shamanistic visions and ideas in tales like the brilliant The Invisibles, where they belong, he shines as a mainstream superhero writer. I have no problem with my superheroes’ stories being packed with metaphor and allegory, like all great myths these stories are meant to be packed with such things, just leave the really esoteric stuff where it belongs. Hopefully, Morrison’s run on Action Comics, which is beginning to get good, will get really great and allow him the freedom to come up with some more really cool and far out stuff like The Invisibles again. Just leave Superman out of it…
The ever solid and powerfully expressive art of Andy Kubert powers Morrison’s retelling of the Man of Steel’s earliest days to wonderful heights. A comic book writer might be able to envision some really incredible ideas, but without a professional and talented sequential artist, he might as well keep the ideas to himself. The only thing in this entire issue that I object to visually is Morrison and Kubert’s version of Krypto. Besides being white in color, Krypto looks way to different, and mean, compared to the Krypto we’ve grown to know and love over the years. Superman, Supergirl, and Superboy all look pretty radically different now too though, so I suppose a drastic change to Krypto’s breed really shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise, or disappointment.
The era of Superman’s new origins that Morrison is tasked with bringing to life is shaping up to be quite good. As a super Superman fan, I have no objection to what Morrison is doing in the long run, albeit with a few exceptions I’ve discussed at length before. Now if DC Comics could just fix what’s going on over in the pages Superman (and “five years” down the road), maybe the Superman Family of books would rise to the top of the reading stack again. It’s a position that they held for several years recently, but have been supplanted this year by some of my other favorite mainstream heroes, Wolverine and The X-Men.
Rating: 9.5 /10